In our BRP-based Runequest game, Michael has asked a few times for rolls on ‘Gloranthan Lore’ and ‘Human Lore’ so that we can remember items from our own cultures. Because we’re all grotesque combat monsters (with the exception of Jim’s character), we’ve all spent maybe 10-20 points on these skills. Pretty feeble really but not surprising due to the way the BRP system works.
In writing for Frontier, I’m aware that there will be people who are on the peripherary of Human Unity, some who are embroiled in society and some who represent the pinnacle of society. My theory is that this takes time and effort and might best be represented in two ways?
- Skill – the knowledge and time invested by the character in realising their citizenship.
- Quality – the result of the time invested with applied knowledge.
Chera Nyumba was born in a small village in Africa, in an area formerly known as Zambia. She lives with her husband and their three children. While the children are at school, Chera and Enzi work in their fields, collecting their crops. In the evenings, they watch and listen to the news feeds and Enzi tells the children stories until they fall asleep. Chera is interested in the environment around her as much as it affects her family and work. Chera is a Competent Citizen; she is part of her community and a functional, productive member of society.
Kesho has taken the skill “Citizen” at Professional. She grew up in the shadow of Kumbu and after her school years travelled through the Western European Expanses and the Americas. She now works with two Experts and four humans in the Explorer Crew Selection committee. For her leisure time, she enjoys sex and researching Explorer Disruptive Element reports. Kesho contributes to her community less than she contributes to Human Unity as a whole.
A character who has the Quality ‘Citizen’ is likely to belong to a family that has a reputation within Human Unity. By virtue of their heritage, their citizenship is seldom questioned even if they have not shown the character of their forebears.
A character who is within the Explorer Division should have Citizen at Competent or better. If generating an Explorer crew, give them Citizen at Competent for free but permit them to swap it out for any level higher. There is no way a character could be part of the Executive Team of an Explorer without this skill at least at Professional.
Description Difficulty Be able to name the metropolitan centres of Earth or rhyme off the first items Traded. This knowledge is typical for school children to memorise. No dice Prepare a presentation on Human cultures including those outside of Human Unity or know the likely location of the nearest Expert. 1d Name all of the Governing Experts or Master Experts that exist or detail the best process for the Kumbu archives. 2d Recite the laws and customs of Human Unity from memory or remember the primary missions of Explorer vessels in Human space 3d
I feel that with the introduction of ‘free skills’ we start to get a better feeling of the society. It acts like a “general education”, a little like the BRP skills as well as the BRP-based “Know” roll which you find in Call of Cthulhu. The existence of baseline abilities like these (other than the generic 5% Human Lore in Runequest) indicate the presence of established education and, by inference, a more advanced society. In a primitive society, there may be a rich oral tradition but very few games model this particularly well – then again, a ‘shaman’ is going to have this oral tradition and a player character Shaman is more likely to place points into ‘shaman-like’ skills.
Some other games have provided copious amounts of information in an attempt to get the players to use the rulebooks as reference materials. Skyrealms of Jorune, Tekumel and Blue Planet spring to mind here. This has some pros and cons. Some of us, like me, really enjoy reading setting material and are considerably less willing to read rules materials. On the other hand, some people just can’t handle the huge volume of background information that a game can produce (and if you don’t believe me, I’ll give you the metric weight of the material Michael reproduced for our Glorantha game and, yeah, our characters should know this stuff!). How do we strike a happy medium? Provide good detailed background about your setting and also provide a way for the more casual gamer to intercept it – this latter point is made a lot easier by having fiction, audio books, movies, maps and other ‘props’ available.